What to do when you are sick

What to do when you are sick

This article was published by the Great British Mag team on 5 October 2021

There is one thing for certain and that is that you will be unwell at some point during your time in the UK. And the last thing you want is to be ill and not know what to do, so here we run you through what to do depending on how sick you feel.

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When do I go to the pharmacy?

If you are suffering from a headache, upset stomach, have the flu or something minor you can get “over-the-counter” medicine from a supermarket, at health and beauty stores (like Boots or Superdrug), or at pharmacies—some of which are open 24 hours a day.

When do I go to the GP?

Doctors, called General Practitioner (GPs) in the UK, can help you with health issues that are not an emergency. If you have a long-term health problem or something that you are worried about you can make an appointment to see a doctor, but you need to register first.

Each clinic will work differently, and you will be assigned one depending on your postcode. When you register ask them about how they work and how you should get in touch with them, as some will offer appointments by telephone and online as well as in-person.

Your university may also have a doctors practice on campus.

When do I call 999?

999 is the emergency number in the UK. You should only call this number in case of a life threatening emergency such as:

  • Loss of consciousness
  • Fits that are not stopping
  • Severe burns or scalds
  • Chest pain
  • Severe bleeding that cannot be stopped
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Severe allergic reactions
  • Overdose

When you call, the operator will ask you “what service you want” as this number is also for the police and fire service.

You will need to say you want an ambulance service and answer the operators’ questions as well as give them the address of where you want the ambulance to come.

An ambulance will be dispatched, and the paramedics will assess whether you need to be taken to the hospital or can be treated within your home.

When do I call 111?

111 is the non-emergency number in the UK. This is the number you call when you are not sure of what to do or if your GP is closed and you need medical care before it reopens. They will listen to your query and let you know what you can do to fix the problem whether that be going to the pharmacy, waiting for your GP to open or going into the accident and emergency (A&E) department at your local hospital.

If you need to go to A&E, in some cases, they will be able to make an appointment for you at the hospital so that you do not have to wait in the reception room for hours.

When do I go to the hospital Accident and Emergency ward

A&E is the emergency ward of the hospital. You should go to A&E if you are experiencing any of the following:

  • Loss of consciousness
  • Severe bleeding that cannot be stopped
  • Chest pain
  • Severe allergic reactions
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Severe burns or scalds
  • Stroke
  • Severe pain

When you arrive at A&E the receptionist will ask about your condition as well as your personal details and you will be seen by the medical team based on the urgency of your condition and the number of patients waiting to be seen, which can take a long time.

What to do if you contract Covid-19

If you think you have contracted Covid-19 first take a lateral flow test at home, if possible, or go to a drop-in test centre.

Do not go to your GP practice or to an Accident and Emergency ward. Do call 111, they will be able to advise you on what to do based on your symptoms and arrange an ambulance if it is needed.

You may also want to read

How can I access mental health support?

What should I do if I experience sexual assault as a student?

Student mental health guide for international students